Gordon Ball

Gordon Ball Photo

©Dave Hess

For 28 years Gordon Ball took informal photographs of poet Allen Ginsberg and other members of the Beat Generation, the literary and cultural phenomenon which has had a world-wide impact since its inception in the mid-1950s. As well as being exhibited at five conferences on Ginsberg and the Beat Generation, at one-man shows at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art and other venues, Ball's photos have appeared in many books, including Dennis McNally's Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and America; Rick Fields' How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America; Michael Köhler's Burroughs: Eine Bild Biographie; Carole Tonkinson's Big Sky Mind: Buddhism and the Beat Generation; Steven Watson's The Birth of the Beat Generation: Visionaries, Rebels, and Hipsters, 1994-1960; and the Rolling Stone Book of the Beats. Periodicals from the New York Times Sunday magazine and DoubleTake (whose fall 1996 issue gave two pages to one photo) to the Chronicle of Higher Education have also reproduced his works.

This very small selection from over a thousand photographs captures Ginsberg (and Ginsbergiana) at various points of the poet's career from 1969 at his Cherry Valley, New York farm (where Ball was farm manager 1968-71) through his funerals in New York City 1997. Within it we see the poet in the company of some of his earliest Beat colleagues, such as novelist William S. Burroughs, writer Herbert Huncke, poets Philip Whalen, Peter Orlovsky, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Gregory Corso; as well as with fellow Buddhist poet Anne Waldman, Russian poet Andrei Voznesensky, and rock star Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth. Among locations are the streets of New York; the swimming pool attached to faculty housing at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, 1976(where Ginsberg was then Co-Director of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics); the Virginia Military Institute, where Ginsberg spent a week visiting and guest-teaching in 1991; Ginsberg's own fourth-floor walk-up apartment on New York's Lower East Side; New York University, site of the 1994 conference, "The Beat Generation: Legacy and Celebration"; and the loft Ginsberg had moved into six months before his death.

Gordon Ball, grandson of a portrait photographer, was born in Paterson, New Jersey, and grew up in Tokyo, Japan, where he first took up photography. Also an award-winning filmmaker, he's made fourteen independent movies which have shown at such institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Art Institute, Anthology Film Archives, and the Guggenheim Museum.

He has recently released a DVD anthology of his movies, Films by Gordon Ball.

Starting at Ginsberg's farm in 1968, he worked with the poet on numerous literary and artistic projects, editing three books, including two volumes of journals and the Pulitzer Prize nominee Allen Verbatim: Lectures on Poetry, Politics, Consciousness. He's the author of '66 Frames: A Memoir (Coffee House Press, 1999) and Dark Music (Cityful Press, 2006). His East Hill Farm: Seasons with Allen Ginsberg will be published by Counterpoint Press in the fall of 2011.

He's taught in Poland (for USIA) and Japan (as a Fulbrighter) as well as the United States, and now lives in Lexington, Virginia, where he teaches at the Virginia Military Institute.

339 Sugar Creek Road, Lexington, VA 24450 (540-463-3804)

Copyright 2011

Gordon Ball